Wellbeing

The Key Difference Between Freelance Work And Full-Time Jobs

From the outside, the freelance life might appear to be a pretty glamorous life. There are freedoms that exist as a freelancer that most part-time or full-time workers could never imagine experiencing. You can book a flight to paradise (providing you’ve got the funds) and continue working from a beachfront bar if the home office isn’t sparking your inspiration. You can knock off from your tasks early in the day if you’ve hit a wall and want to do something different instead. You can even respond to clients in the comfort of your knickers if you’re just not in the mood to wear pants. Sounds nice, right?

What accompanies that however, is a long list of requirements to fulfil as a part of the freelance life. How much of your super should you be contributing? Will this next client bump you into the next tax bracket? If so, how much money should you be putting away to pay tax? Will you be able to afford more than Maggi noodles for dinner tonight? You might not even have time to eat those noodles if you can’t finish this task for your client.

There’s far more to being a freelancer than many people think. Here’s why being a freelancer requires as much work, if not more work, than a 9-to-5 job.

You’ve got every role in the business

As a freelancer, you’re not just a web developer, or a photographer, or a writer. You’re also a networker, a lead generator, a producer, a marketer, a bookkeeper, an accountant and more.

If you’re growing as a small business, you’ll also be delegating tasks and outsourcing your work to other freelancers, which means you’re now a manager, and responsible for other people’s wages too.

Ruby Bisson is a freelance marketer and creative who has recently begun hiring her own staff to delegate tasks. She’s more than familiar with the extensive list of daily tasks required when you are your own boss.

“You get to a point where you start referring yourself as someone who runs a small business or you call yourself a writer or a developer instead of a freelancer because of the expectation that you’re bumming around half the time which is totally false,” says Ruby, who had already planned to stay at the library until 9pm that night when she spoke with The Cusp, to ensure she could keep on top of her workload.

“You’re always hustling and switched on to opportunities, looking to open doors and have a kind of alertness that you don’t get when you’re working full time,” she says.

You’ve got to be responsible for everything involved in your finances

As a freelancer, you’re responsible for everything to do with your financial affairs. When you’re working full time, it’s your employer’s responsibility to do most of this for you. As an independent, you’re in charge of ensuring you’re contributing enough superannuation. You’re also responsible for paying your taxes yoursel – there’s no company accountant taking your tax out of your wage each time you’re paid.

Tax time for a 9-to-5 employee is usually a wonderful time of year where you can choose to spoil yourself with extra cash moolah in your bank. But as a freelancer, tax time means you’ll be forking out a hefty bill to pay to the tax office, so hopefully you’ve been putting away money regularly to make this time of year as painless as possible.

“You have to be thinking about how much tax you put aside, and what tax bracket you think you might fall into.”

“You have to be thinking about how much tax you put aside, and what tax bracket you think you might fall into,” says Ruby. “One month you might pick up a client and think, woah, this might drastically change the trajectory of my income.”

Gemma Clarke is the freelance editor of the travel publication Global Hobo. She dedicates weeks at a time throughout the year to focus on just her freelance taxes.

“Because I spend four months a year freelancing and running writing workshops in Asia, half of my tax deductible expenses need to be paid in cash, as Japan and Bali are mostly cash economies,” says Gemma. “This means I end up with thousands of receipts in Japanese and Indonesian languages, some even written on serviettes, that I need to convert into AUD, translate into English and tabulate (along with every single bank and card transaction) in MYOB, a program you almost need an accounting degree to navigate.”

At the end of each financial year she spends a solid month tallying, balancing and reconciling transactions, before she still needs to pay an accountant to check and submit it.

While being a freelancer certainly has its perks, it’s definitely more than a 9-to-5 job. You have the freedom to tackle tasks whenever you need to, but those tasks include being your own finance and HR guru. Make sure you know what you’re getting into before you start.


Sam is a freelance writer passionate about sub-cultures, oddballs of the world and music. She runs a Melbourne music website and writes banter for VICE, The LAD Bible, and other websites. You can find her on Twitter at @hamsoward.